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The Holidays: Time For Joy, Laughter & Analytics
Ah the holiday season. Time to welcome back apple-picking trips, pumpkin spice lattes and the smell of pine needles. In the retail search space, time to welcome back gruelingly long work days, insane volume spikes, working on days normal people have off (e.g. every weekend from November through Christmas) and enough last-second surprises to make anyone pull their hair out.
While I have yet to find a solution for the surprises your boss likes to throw at you at 5 p.m. on a Friday, there is a way to eliminate some of the stress that comes with holiday search campaigns.
By simply shifting your focus to be more analytics-heavy and adjusting the way you look at your data, you can lessen your stress, better predict trends and results, and make the entire holiday season more successful.
If the idea of carving a piece of time out of your already cramped schedule to focus on analyzing data seems like mission impossible, don’t worry, it is doable. The biggest key to finding time to analyze your data is to make sure you are analyzing the right data — meaning data that will actually move your business forward.
You can and should be looking at your basic metrics every day (e.g. CTR, bids, keywords, match types, etc.). But by looking at “incremental metrics” such as clickstream, cross-channel influence, time lag between first click and purchase, and branded impressions per day — metrics that often change during the holiday season — you can find pieces of data that might alter your marketing strategies.
For example, look at the amount of exact match impressions you get on your branded terms per day, then compare them to the exact match impressions from the previous year. Not only can this give you a good feel for the rate your brand is growing, but it will also help you better predict clicks, spend, conversion rate, revenue, etc., for the upcoming holiday season.
Once you start figuring out the data you should be analyzing, start analyzing it … as in now. It may sound trite (especially since by now you have read 50 articles talking about how the holiday season has already started), but the earlier you begin focusing on analytics, the easier it will be to make progress.
There are two reasons for this: volume and reaction time.
While October is the unofficial beginning of the holiday season, it is rarely a month that shows huge spikes in volume, so you aren’t yet dealing with the enormous influx of data that comes in the heart of the holiday season. This allows you to more easily determine what pieces of data you want to gather and install the systems you need to properly analyze it.
The second thing to remember is reaction time. The sooner you begin gathering data, the sooner you can begin using that data to influence your campaigns.
There is no worse feeling than to look back on your holiday season and know you left money on the table or spent money you shouldn’t have. By starting early, you will be able to have an immediate impact on your campaigns and drive incremental revenue.
The final thing to keep in mind when adding an analytical focus to your holiday campaigns is that you cannot allow perfection to be a barrier to progress. Far too often in search marketing — and in digital marketing for that matter — marketers get lost in the data; if any tiny little piece doesn’t line up exactly, they don’t trust the data.
You cannot do this during the holiday season or you will miss your opportunity. For example, I think the most common occurrence is something along these lines:
- A marketer discovers a common click path prior to conversion.
- They then dig in deeper and find the click path didn’t occur as commonly last Tuesday.
- The marketer then spends a week trying to figure out why it didn’t happen last Tuesday — completely forgetting the data is valid on the other six days of the week.
While that example seems a bit silly, examples like that happen all the time — and they cannot happen during holiday season or you will miss your opportunity. So while you should always strive to make sure the data is as perfect as possible, you also have to know when enough is enough.
For the marketers that are able to find the point where they trust the data and are agile enough to adjust for it, you will be able to add efficiency to your campaigns and even gain share against your competitors.
Thinking about Excel documents and analytics instead of Christmas lights and giant piles of holiday revenue may sound boring, but the marketers who can effectively build in an analytical mindset before we get too far into the holiday season will be more successful than their counterparts.
Then, they can go back to thinking about more important things — like how to finally get out of doing the pointless task the boss drops on your desk right before you leave for the day.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.